Tag Archives: R.E.M.

Gem of the Week: Top Five Albums Turning 20

5 Feb

My tribute to the music of ’94

I got inspired to compile a top five list of great albums from 1994 after reading an article on Stereogum.com about how Green Day’s Dookie album just turned 20 years old.

Here are my top five albums from ’94 (of course I’m including Dookie) that are now 20 years old :

5. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral 

I was one of those 14-year-old teen girls that loved Trent Reznor. I could care less about him now but this album was in my Walkman all the time. Songs like March of Pigs, Terrible Lie, Hurt and Closer make this album a gem. The Downward Spiral should become a requirement to  every grunge music fan’s collection from 1994.

4. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die 

This is a great hip-hop album that came out during the time when west coast rappers like 2Pac  dominated the scene. Biggie put the east coast sound into mainstream with his hit single Juicy and then Big Poppa  (’95) from this debut album. I have mentioned before that I can’t get into todays hip-hop. When Biggie rapped it was real venting and he delivered with passion.  My favorite jam off the album is Gimme The Loot.

3. Live – Throwing Copper

Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk and myself share something in common and that is we both love R.E.M.  I listened to this album a lot and the hits from this album were all catchy: Selling the Drama, I Alone, Lightning Crashes and All Over You. Live writes songs that are awesome lyrically as well as musically.

2. Green Day – Dookie

This really was an influential breakthrough album with hits like Longview, Basket Case and When I Come Around.  While Green Day has matured and grown so much as a band over the past 20 years, I still carry that first impression of their goofy teen image in the video for LongviewDookie is pure brilliance and to think of how lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong was only 18 years old at the time is crazy but then again he continues being a true talent.

1. R.E.M – Monster 

Aside from them being my favorite band, I felt this venture into a harder sound totally worked out making this a great album. Every single minute of this album rocks with big hits like: Whats The Frequency, Kenneth?, Star 69, Bang and Blame, Strange Currencies and my personal favorite song off the album, I Don’t Sleep, I Dream. I can still listen through Monster over and over again.

I narrowed my top five list to reflect what I listened to the most and I left off a few of my veteran favorites from the ’94 era like: Pear Jam, Nirvana, Sound Garden, Rancid and Tori Amos.

I’m happy those five gems are in my collection because they came from a great defining year in music.

I included a link from Greenday’s You Tube channel for the classic video Longview.


Legends of Rock: R.I.P rock icon Lou Reed

30 Oct

Sunday was not a perfect day after reading the news that legendary Velvet Underground frontman and solo artist Lou Reed passed away in Southampton New York.

Reed was 71 years old and had complications from a liver transplant.

I think that Reed is everything that would define the word cool and his thought-provoking lyrics tend to always linger in my head.

Reed  also was an influential guitarist.  An article published in The Guardian stated that Reed’s guitar tuning style coined the term ostrich guitar which meant he would tune all strings to one note.

He is best known for hits like Heroin from the 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico (Andy Warhol created the album cover showing a peel-off banana) as well as Sweet Jane from the 1970 album Loaded.

His solo hits include; Take a Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day from his 1972 album Transformer.

My interest in listening to Reed and The Velvet Underground was first triggered through hearing  R.E.M. cover his songs.

While R.E.M has covered many Reed songs throughout their albums, the Dead Letter Office album in particular covers a few with: There She Goes, Pale Blue Eye’s, and Femme Fatale.
I also remember in 1993 the group Cowboy Junkies covered Sweet Jane and it was a major hit that earned a lot of radio play.
In 1995 Duran Duran released a cover album called Thank You and they covered Reed’s Perfect Day which is  my favorite song by Reed.

The song is a simple masterpiece and my favorite line is:

“Just a perfect day, problems all left alone, weekenders on our own, It’s such fun.”

An article by Associated Press writer Hillel Italie put Reed’s influence in music best stating:

” Indie rock essentially begins in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets; the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s were all indebted to Reed, whose songs were covered by R.E.M., Nirvana, Patti Smith and countless others.”

I thank my favorite bands for triggering my interest in Reed’s music which was before my time.

Aside from his role as a pioneer in rock music, Reed’s creativity spans into photography and film projects. Further details into his other creative projects are on his official website.

There is also a B&W photo of Reed on the official site showing him with his fist up and I love the photo because it says it all. The caption above the photo said it was recently taken by photographer Jean Baptiste Mondino.

I’m grateful for the music and inspiration Reed left. He will always be a true rock legend with his smooth voice and conversational spoken word style delivery that makes you feel like your right there with him.


Pop Culture Reflection: Where Have All My Music Stores Gone?!

16 Dec

I’m reminiscent of my record store experiences, but local music shops are fading away while online stores like iTunes have stepped in.

Like the rest of the high tech world I also download and purchase new music from iTunes or Amazon.

I still want the hard copy cd when it comes to certain bands; R.E.M holds this priority. (note my previous two blogs dedicated to them)

I bought R.E.M’s definitive collection the day after its’ release date and realized that I had to go to either FYE or Best Buy just to find a store with a decent music selection.

The good independent music stores just aren’t surviving anymore at least not in metro Detroit.

My favorite local music store was Wherehouse Music (This was how the store really spelled their name it’s not a typo) unfortunately it closed several years ago but it was my go to place for music.

I would head straight to the used hard rock and punk sections at Wherehouse and search albums.

I loved this section because of course it was a way to build my collection cheap and you could listen before you buy.

I would pick out certain albums with cover artwork that interested me and I would check it out.

This method is how I stumbled into loving the band Pennywise.

I remember seeing their logo on the back of somebody’s shirt from an MxPx show and thought it looked cool so while I was skimming the used section at Wherehouse my eye caught that familiar Pennywise name again. The album I saw was About Time and the price was only $4.00.

The picture was of an alarm clock strapped to dynamite on a mustard yellow background.

I grabbed it up and instantly loved the fourth track “Every Single Day.”

From that album purchase I went on to watch Pennywise perform at the next Warped Tour and since then I have bought all of their other albums and I have went to a lot more of their shows.

Today stores like Target or Costco are not places I can go to and linger around the music section and they also do not supply the vast genre selection to allow me to discover underground and local bands in the way a music shop such as Wherehouse did.

I also upgraded most of my album collection from cassette tapes to cd from the used section at Wherehouse.

There were other local shops around that I less frequented like Flipside Records, Rock-A-Billy’s, Record Time and Hot Hits. Now all of those stores have closed except Flipside Records.

Buying my last official R.E.M album from Best Buy certainly was not the same experience of when I use to buy a new R.E.M release from a music store. Instead it felt like a quick errand of run in-grab the album-let the clerk ring it up-done.

I miss buying a new album from Wherehouse’s midnight sale special.

I am now left with memories of those early music store sales.

I remember when R.E.M released Reveal around 2001 you could get a special edition booklet but it was limited. I wanted to buy it early to ensure I got the booklet.

So right at midnight I stood outside of Wherehouse Music excited to pick up the new album. When I went inside the store there was a long line of people and at first I thought all that fuss was for R.E.M.

Wishful thinking on my part instead the big line of people where there to pick up Lateralus by Tool! Here I thought people were finally coming to their senses about R.E.M.

Turns out I was the only person who was there to pick up Reveal.

As I waited I overheard the guy in line behind me ripping on R.E.M’s performance from the Tibetan Freedom Concert and how lame Michael Stipe was for wearing eyeliner and a skirt.

The irony was that this guy had on a green t-shirt for the band Live, and the lead singer of Live is a major R.E.M fan and it was R.E.M.’s music that inspired this band.

Of course I didn’t say anything to the guy about his shirt but I did shoot him the look of death before I proudly requested my copy of Reveal.

I know It’s outdated to still want to buy cds but It’s the experience that is missed and my Wherehouse Music memories are golden to me .

Legends of Rock: R.E.M bid farewell to fans on 9/21/11 now it’s time to Talk About The Passion

8 Nov

My Favorite R.E.M Albums

R.E.M’s music is anything but typical and once you really feel their offbeat groove, the impact hits you hard and leaves a mark.

The band will release their definitive greatest hits collection just a couple months after calling it quits. The album goes on sale November 15, 2011 as stated from the bands official website http://remhq.com

R.E.M has been my inspirational soundtrack since I was
12 years old, and my loyalty to
them is infinite.

From their underground start in Athens, Georgia to full fame; Michael Stipe [vocals], Peter Buck [guitar], Mike Mills [bass] and Bill Berry [drums] created an iconic music experience in their 31 year run.

In the early 90s my full attention was shifted to R.E.M when the song Drive came out in 1992. My brother had watched the music video for the song Drive and he called me over to check it out.

So of course I did and I not only loved the song upon first listen, but I thought it was the coolest music video I had ever seen.

As you can guess my first R.E.M. album was Automatic for the People (on cassette tape) and what a flawless master piece it is. The songs were great music overload for my young impressionable mind.

From that moment on, I instantly loved everything about their music and videos to Michael Stipe’s image and distinct vocals.

I remember going to Harmony House (old music franchise) to consider which R.E.M album I was going to buy next.My eyes landed on all of their other albums the store carried: Document, Green, Out of Time, Reckoning and Chronic Town.

I wished I could have bought them all at once. I think Document was the second one I bought.

Each time I went to the music store I bought an R.E.M album that I didn’t have until I finally had everything up to date.

It was a wonderful discovery process because I wasn’t familiar with any hits from their early IRS record albums like Murmur, Reckoning or Chronic Town.

Yet I bought those albums anyway because I knew I would love the songs since I loved Automatic for the People and Document so much.

R.E.M was also the first band I ever saw live in concert.

I was 14 years old when they came to Detroit on June 7, 1995 for their Monster tour.

Luscious Jackson was the opening band for them but I was too anxious to
care about openers.

Plus I was holding tickets to decent main floor seats in row fifteen, seat 5!

I loved the show and of course instantly loved their stage presence.

For years I remembered and could recite their whole set list played at that show.

Now 17 years later I can only remember the first three songs which were: I Took Your Name, Turn You Inside Out and I Don’t Sleep I Dream.

The encore of course was It’s the End of the World as We Know It.

Michael Stipe had pages of lyrics in front of him and he admitted that he couldn’t remember the words to some of the older songs, so he kept the words in front of him.

He was modest and an excellent frontman.

Also, Bill Berry had recently recovered from his brain aneurysm while on the tour, so during the entire concert every now and again this loud drunk guy sitting behind me would yell: “Yeah! Bill lives!” For some reason it lingers in my memory.

I am so happy that I can say R.E.M was my first big venue concert, especially the Monster tour since Berry was still in the band before he decided to retire in 1997.

I have been lucky enough to see them in concert three times.

I’ll admit that I felt Berry’s departure left a dent in R.E.M. The last few albums just didn’t fully have the enigmatic effect that I loved about their other albums.

I do have my favorites from the albums recorded after Berry such as: She Just Wants To Be, Lotus, Final Straw, Around the Sun and Uberlin.

I guess as a trio R.E.M switched to more of an acoustic style and I kind of found
that appropriate.

I also disagree with all the negative reviews claiming that Around the Sun was their
worst album.

I think that album contains a few great songs like Final Straw and The Outsiders which features Q-tip from A Tribe Called Quest, and for that reason alone this album can never suck…so eat it critics!

Accelerate is the album I don’t care for.

But even if a couple of albums were not their best work R.E.M prevails over all the good and bad since they stayed together respectfully for 31 years.

My top five R.E.M albums that I still love to listen to from start to finish:

1. Chronic Town
2. Murmur
3. Fables of the Reconstruction
4. Automatic for the People
5. New Adventures in Hi Fi

R.E.M has been a part of my life for 19 years…needless to say I did not outgrow them.

Their music has an attractive quirky coolness quality in their brilliant ballads.

Whenever I am discussing music with friends or co-workers they are usually surprised to find out that R.E.M is my favorite band of all time.

I also commend R.E.M’s pact to never publicly make a negative display of any personal tensions between the band.

“We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this — there’s no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We’ve made this decision together, amicably and with each other’s best interests at heart. The time just feels right.” stated Mike Mills on the bands official website.

From Chronic Town R.E.M was singing: “We’ll stumble through the years.” In Collapse Into Now, they bid their fans “All The Best.”

I want to thank R.E.M for becoming a band and writing great songs that got me through
my teen years and made me feel cool to be me. My heart holds on tightly to their music.

I have linked my favorite R.E.M video ffrom Maccafixx You Tube channel for the song Driver 8.